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Road trip baby!!
In July 2016 we packed up our car and started out on a journey that would see us clock up 7,200km! Yes you read that correctly. Seven THOUSAND kilometres. Looking back even I cannot comprehend that distance now – especially as we knew our car was on its last legs!
This was our route.
We’d never undertaken a road trip quite as enthusiastic as this before. Sure we’d loaded up our trailer in Australia and driven 8 hours but that was meagre in comparison to this where we were driving 8 hours a day!
Let us tell you how we prepared for our trip!
Research! Research! Research!
I’ve made that sound dull haven’t I? It really doesn’t have to be though, in fact I find it really exciting.
- Make research fun by creating wish lists, collecting blogs, make boards, save links, print things out and keep a file, use your phone to make notes and lists and carry a notepad and pencil around with you. If you’re interested in my Bloglovin‘ collection, Pinterest board or AirBNB wish list please click the links. I am constantly writing, scribbling notes and saving links. Making lists is how I cope!
- Plan your (road trip) route and triangulate! By triangulate I mean, use GPS, download Google maps offline AND have a road map. This way you can never get lost. It sounds excessive but when you’re sticking to a hefty route and a narrow timescale, it can make all the difference getting lost and losing 30 minutes of your time.
- Cost is a huge factor in any holiday so use an online tool like Numbeo to work out how much a loaf of bread, a beer and a litre of petrol will cost. It’s a great tool for considering where your money will be spent.
- Read up on driving laws in the countries you’ll be visiting. For example in Slovakia you must always drive with your lights on and in Norway the drink drive limit is 20mg per 100ml of blood – a quarter of the level in the UK.
If you’re a young and adventurous, free-spirited couple with no real plans (really I’m not jealous) then this isn’t going to suit your road trip, however for us it was really important that we budgeted for our holiday upfront, knew what we had left to spend and knew where we were going. Knowing where we were going, enabled us to plan some of our days and have discussions with our kids.
There are loads of online booking portals, some of our favourites are:
Insurance and Breakdown
A chunk of our budget went on European breakdown. Can you imagine anything worse on a road trip than breaking down with a car packed to the girders and 3 grumpy kids in a country where you don’t speak the lingo? Nope. Neither can I! That’s why we forked out and got ourselves covered. In the end we didn’t use it however it was comforting to know that we could have done.
When travelling abroad, you also need to keep a copy of your insurance, break down and your licence in your car. You can be stop fined for not having these to hand. Make sure your insurance will cover you for leaving the amount of time you want to. We had to keep our travels inside 32 days otherwise we’d face an extra payment.
Plan for what might go wrong
It’s unlikely that your car will be swallowed whole by a big hole however planning for what might go wrong could end up saving your arse!
We left with the full knowledge that our car had a broken head gasket. We took a measured risk (we couldn’t afford to get it fixed, we couldn’t afford a new car and we didn’t want to give up our holiday) and prepared for what could go wrong.
Now, I am not suggesting that you pack the kitchen sink but here are some essentials that we packed:
- Spare phone charger and cables. We kept it hidden in a glove box so it didn’t get lost (aka stolen by the teenager!)
- A box with essential car tools: Screwdrivers, allen keys, a wrench, cloths, all-in-one battery charger, a bottle of coolant, windscreen cleaner.
- Toilet rolls and a bottle of water.
- A translator app that worked offline.
Basic car maintenance
It’s kind of essential that when you’re talking about spending 30+ days in a car that not only is your car in a good condition (laughable with ours) but that you also know a little bit about car maintenance.
- Make sure your tyres have enough tread and if not, change them in the months preceeding you trip.
- Can you test how much oil your car has in it? Do you know what to do if your oil is testing thick and black?
- If your battery dies do you know how to connect it to jump leads?
- Is your spare tyre in good condition and can you change it?
- If your coolant overflows, do you know what to do?
As a female often travelling alone with three kids, Emma has made car maintenance an importance by learning how to change tyres, test oil, jump-start the battery etc. It can save a lot of time and money if you learn how and it really isn’t very complex.
Take a box of food
We actually took one large plastic box of dried foods, a box of herbs and spices and a cool-bag of fresh food. This way we had enough to cook with every day and nothing was wasted by throwing it out when we left.
The price of eating out in Scandinavia didn’t suit our family budget and even supermarket food can be expensive. By taking the basics of pasta, rice, couscous, cereals, nuts and grains etc, you can save a lot of money. This is what we did. We also took coconut oil, dates, nut milks, tomato passata, scales, measuring spoons and the nutri-bullet. It seems a lot but really it didn’t take up much room and we were always guaranteed a meal.
Talk with your kids about the journey
Long journeys don’t need to be fraught. The dreaded ‘are we nearly there yet’ question doesn’t even have to be uttered.
What we do with our kids:
- Show them the map or Give them a map
- Discuss possible landmarks to watch out for
- Tell them how long it will take
- Make sure they have a watch and can tell the time
- Don’t forget to tell your kids what’s going on with the journey. If you’ve been delayed, let them know the new ETA.
- Teach them how to ask ‘how much longer do we have left’, ‘how much further are we driving’, ‘is our time of arrival still the same as it was this morning’. Anything BUT ‘are we nearly there yet’. If necessary limit them asking this question by explaining how irritating it is.
- Encourage them to look out of the window, talk about what they can see, how the landscape has changed, get them to spot animals or play eye spy. Give them paper & pencils and let them draw or write about what they see. There’s a whole world out there they can allow their imaginations to run wild! My pet hate is young kids who have screens to watch in the car. I think it’s unnecessary.
Pack a little, not a lot
This is my biggest problem. I always pack way too much. The biggest question I always ask myself is ‘How much can one person actually wear?’. I always get it wrong so this is work in progress for me.
We have started limiting the younger kids to a small backpack of clothes (one they can carry) and a small number of toys. Usually they can get about 5 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of trousers/leggings, 5 t-shirts, swimming stuff, a jumper and socks and pants in their backpacks and usually they don’t wear some of it.
This summer, please excuse the phone photo, this was my suitcase and my camera equipment. You can clearly see where my priorities lie but yet I still took clothes that I didn’t wear.
Please excuse the awful photos!